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Date: Wed, 11 Dec 85 23:30:34 EST
>From ins_aset@jhunix Wed Dec 11 15:23:36 1985 remote from jhunix Date: Wed, 11 Dec 85 15:23:23 EST From: Susanne E Trowbridge <ins_aset@jhunix> Subject: Suzanne Vega VEGA SHEDS THE FOLK LABEL (c) Baltimore City Paper. Reprinted without permission. Perhaps Suzanne Vega should have run the other way the first time someone called her a folk singer. Granted it's not an entirely inappropriate tag - her roots are in New York's famed Folk City club, and her self-titled debut album earned raves for the best girl-and-her-guitar musings since Joni Mitchell's early LPs. Still, the folk label will probably just serve to turn off a lot of people who might otherwise enjoy Vega's considerable talents as a songwriter and performer. And judging from her November 23 performance at Goucher's Kraushaar Auditorium, Vega's out to prove that she wants to go way beyond that narrow niche of folk. She and her four-piece band opted firmly for popcraft, often reducing her acoustic guitar to just part of the mix, contrary to the sparse sound of the album. If the fleshed-out, full-band treatment detracted a bit from the delicacy of Vega's compositions, the capacity crowd didn't seem to mind. They applauded the beginnings of the songs as well as the ends, and gave her a rousing standing ovation. Even Vega seemed a bit bemused by the intensity of the reception. Of course, she could have led the crowd in a chorus of "Tom Dooley" and still have sounded positively modern after her opening act, Roger McGuinn. It was a little sad to see the former Byrds frontman performing feeble acoustic versions of classics like "R "Turn, Turn, Turn" and "Mr. Tambourine Man"; his quavering voice only served to make the absence of the legendary Byrds harmonies that much more noticeable. His dazzling fretwork on "Eight Miles High" almost saved the show, but on the whole it was embarrassing to watch, and made Vega look even more fresh and exciting by comparison. If she at first seemed to embody the captivating cool of her heroine, German actress Marlene Dietrich, she gradually turned on a winsome charm, delighting the audience with tales of her travels through Europe. After opening with an a capella number, "Tom's Diner," Vega launched into a set that included all 10 songs from her album. There was the eerie, empty soul speaking in "Cracking," lover's games of "Freeze Tag," and a punchy version of her should-have-been-a-hit single, "Marlene on the Wall." She also introduced several new numbers, some very good, like the gently rocking "Luka." Then she announced giddily that she had written a song for an upcoming film, \fIPretty in Pink\fR, directed by teen movie meister John Hughes of \fIBreakfast Club\fR fame. But Vega couldn't transcend the wretched category of Movie Soundtrack Song - "Left of Center" was the low point of her performance, and as she sang her hand firmly covered the strings of her guitar, as if she had to will herself not to play along, just for this one song. Since she has been touring both alone and with her band, it is hard to tell where she'll go from here. If a little more electric guitar and a tougher beat will get her a wider audience, that's ok; her clear, pretty voice doesn't need to change a bit. Vega is simply too good to be written off with a confining label like "folk singer."